France - From Riots to Revolt - Editorial

The riots which have gripped France during the first weeks of November represent an elemental explosion of anger at the degrading conditions under which capitalism demands its wage slaves live. The massive unemployment in France has resulted in a situation where, in some of the poorer working class areas, there is approximately 50% unemployment. The state tries to contain workers in these areas and uses the police to harass them as if they were prisoners. These riots can be compared with those which swept across Britain in the summer of 1981. At that time unemployment was above 10% as the first stage of the restructuring of British capital was being implemented. As in France, the rioting was very widespread but lacked direction and political consciousness so could be contained by the state. In particular, no attempt was made to link up the struggles of the unemployed to those of those workers still in work. It is, of course, employed workers whose struggles have the ability to paralyse capitalist production and once masses of employed workers join the struggle the stakes become raised and capitalist political power is threatened. This is exactly what occurred in 1968 when riots of students sparked off a mass strike by French workers, the largest strike in history, which brought down the government. However, as the IBRP statement published in this edition makes clear, the riots could not extend without greater class consciousness. The sporadic and isolated nature of the riots illustrates how successful the bourgeoisie have been in splitting up the working class into pockets of mass unemployed in certain areas while elsewhere workers are employed or even have more than one part time job. In addition the French bourgeoisie have used race and religion to further divide workers. The issue of race was similarly used by the British bourgeoisie in 1981 when the riots were presented as "race riots", despite the images of white and black youth side by side which nightly flooded the TV screens. These divisions can be overcome when employed workers join the struggle and the issues become posed in terms of class and class alone. However, only with a revolutionary perspective, which means the presence revolutionary communists in the struggle, can riots be transformed into revolts. For this to occur, a long series of class struggles is required. Struggles in which the present consciousness of the working class, a consciousness which is formed by capitalist ideology, can be effectively challenged and broken.

Repression at home

Our rulers have only one answer to outburst of anger such as we are seeing in the French riots - repression. The French bourgeoisie have revived emergency powers giving police greater powers and allowing curfews to be imposed and extended these measures to February 2006. These measures are complimented by the savage sentences handed down to those arrested.

In Britain, the ruling class is also busily enacting laws to put further weapons into the states arsenal of repression. The anti-terror laws are a new assault on bourgeois freedoms and human rights. Those detained will in future be held for 28 days without any charge being brought. The police, who claimed this was insufficient clamoured for a 90-day period without charge. Blair and his henchmen tried to force this through parliament but failed. Although much has been made of Blair's defeat on this issue the legislation passed is the sort of thing enacted by police states facing popular unrest. We should recall that it was the South African apartheid regime which first introduced a 90-day detention without trial provision in the early 1960's after it had massacred protesters at Sharpville. The measures being legislated today, supposedly against the present bourgeois enemies of the British state such as Al Qa'ida, will tomorrow be used against the organisations and militants of the working class.

War abroad

While our rulers profess undying love of freedom and human rights, they abolish them at home and launch wars abroad. These wars are launched without the slightest concern for so-called international law or the human rights of the rights of those they butcher. Predatory wars to secure resources, such as oil, are passed off as the defence of freedom, human rights and democracy. Blair's director of the government's foreign policy centre, Stephen Twigg, expressed this with shameless cynicism when he said:

The world's energy security is one of the most pressing challenges for collective foreign policy. Britain is increasingly reliant on oil and gas sourced from areas of the world which are politically unstable and from regimes which do not respect human rights or international law.

@Quoted in The Independent, 14/11/05

The US, which similarly never ceases to proclaim its love for human rights and freedom, has recently been shown to have a policy of arranging for its captives to be farmed out to its client states to be tortured. Britain, which of course also abominates torture, receives the information from torture carried out in this way and uses it in its intelligence and prosecution of its prisoners. Not satisfied with the notorious hell holes the US has set up in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba, such as Abu Ghraib prison, Bagram Air base and Guantanamo Bay, the US is setting up a further gulag of similar detention centres in the states of Eastern Europe which have joined NATO. In all of this it is quite clear that our rulers have no interest in freedom, human rights or democracy. These pretexts are simply camouflage behind which they ruthlessly pursue their naked imperialist interests. The war in Iraq and the threatened war against Iran, which are both discussed in articles below, show how the stakes are being raised in the struggle for oil resources as the capitalist crisis continues. These wars are expressions of this. While the capitalist class pursues predatory wars for resources abroad, preparations are being put in hand for the repression of the class struggle at home.

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